Land Use Regulations and Taxation
Land use regulations are administered through each municipality’s Zoning Enforcement Officer, who sometimes also serves as the city or town’s Building Inspector. Farmers are entitled to certain exemptions from zoning; however, they generally still need building permits for construction. Individuals should inquire at their municipality’s building department about specific farmland.
A brief explanation of the available landowner programs and the government organization which administers them can be found on website of the MassWoods program. This includes Ch61, Ch61A and Ch61B, Environmental Quality Incentives program, Wildlife Habitat Incentives program, Forest Stewardship program and Landowner Incentive program.
Laws enacted by the Massachusetts Legislature are interpreted through regulations, the Code of Massachusetts Regulation (CMR). Those that affect agriculture, i.e. animals, farm products, pesticides, etc., can be found here, on MDAR’s website. The Department of Revenue’s definition MGL Ch 61A Sec. 2 defines the real estate property tax exemption for agriculture.
Chapter 61A provides tax benefits in situations in which land is in agricultural use. Definitions of this use include primarily and directly used in raising animals, including dairy cattle, beef cattle, poultry, sheep, swine, horses, ponies, mules, goats, bees and fur-bearing animals, for the purpose of selling such animals or a product derived from such animals in the regular course of business. Land may also qualify if determined to be for horticultural use when primarily and directly used in raising fruits, vegetables, berries, nuts and other foods for human consumption, feed for animals, tobacco, flowers, sod, trees, nursery or greenhouse products, and ornamental plants and shrubs for the purpose of selling such products in the regular course of business; or when primarily and directly used in raising forest products under a program certified by the state forester.
For additional information on Chapter 61A, see Mass Farm Bureau or contact:
Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, Land Use Programs
Telephone (617) 626-1704
New England Small Farm Institute (NESFI)
NESFI has a web page on useful legal, tax and regulatory information called "What Legal, Tax and Regulatory Information Must I Know to Run My Farm". Use the links to find specific topics. These are not Massachusetts-specific resources, they apply nationally.